Bethesda should just say 'screw it', move on from Starfield, and put all that energy into Fallout

Close-up of man grinning with a cowboy hat
(Image credit: Tyler C. / Bethesda)

On Steam, Starfield—a game that launched only last September after eight years of development—is being totally spanked by Fallout 4. At least in terms of player numbers. In April, Starfield peaked at around 9,000 concurrent players. That's about 180,000 fewer than Bethesda's previous RPG. Last year, Todd Howard said that Starfield was designed to be played for years, and that he expected updates would keep coming out for another five years. Honestly? I think it's already time to pack it in. 

OK, we should put these numbers in context, along with the caveat that concurrents aren't always the most important metric for judging a game's success. And these numbers are exclusively from the Steam version, so they don't include console players or anyone flitting around in space via Game Pass.

Fallout 4 is naturally seeing a big resurgence thanks to the Fallout TV show. The whole Fallout series is having a great time at the moment. Fallout 76, for instance, has more people playing right now than it did even at launch. But Fallout 4 has been consistently popular. Before Amazon's series aired, it rarely dipped below 20,000 players on Steam. Even after eight years. 

Meanwhile, Starfield's concurrents dipped below 20,000 only a few months after launch, and they've only gotten worse. Skyrim, which appeared nearly 13 years ago, manages to attract more players. Starfield's modding scene is nowhere near as vibrant as the older games—the creator of Skyrim Together gave up on a Starfield co-op mod, for instance, calling the game "f***ing trash"—and Bethesda's updates have been incredibly lacklustre. Bug fixes, a photo mode, and soon the ability to decorate your ship. Hardly the sort of thing that's going to make you reinstall a 125GB+ game, even if spaceship interior design sounds infinitely more interesting than most of what Starfield currently offers.  

But the problem isn't just a lack of new stuff. Indeed, Fallout 4's DLC was largely terrible, with only a couple of exceptions, and it never moved the needle much. People weren't continuously playing Fallout 4 because Bethesda kept adding stuff to it; they kept playing because it was fun. As an RPG, I found it incredibly disappointing, and place it right at the bottom of the mainline games, but I still put 165 hours into it. I loved Nick Valentine, I loved exploring the Wasteland even though it ran like shit on my PC, and I had a laugh mucking around with settlements, despite the system being even jankier than your usual Bethesda fare. 

(Image credit: Bethesda Game Studios)

I found nothing to love about Starfield. Forgettable characters, dreary worlds, uninspired quest design—I lasted about 50 hours, and 40 of them were because I get paid to play games. I doubt I'll ever play it again. The combat—not including the space battles—was the only thing that felt like an improvement over previous Bethesda games, but it wasn't enough to make up for everything else. 

While my feelings about the game are possibly more negative than most, it certainly didn't make the kind of splash you'd expect from a Bethesda-developed game. It was nominated for a bunch of awards but won few, and it failed to dominate GOTY lists in the same way as its predecessors. On Steam, it's the only game the studio has developed that doesn't have a positive user rating. It was the company's biggest launch and probably made a ton of cash, but all of that initial enthusiasm—I still remember when people predicted we'd forget all about Baldur's Gate 3 after Starfield appeared, which is even more laughable now—has vanished. 

Bethesda has an expansion in the works, but it won't arrive until the autumn, a year after Starfield launched. At this point, it feels like a wasted effort. Just let it die, Bethesda. Put all of that effort into The Elder Scrolls 6 so I can play it before I die. Or a new Fallout! It's wild that there's all this attention on the series and no new game to take advantage of it. Granted, Fallout 76 keeps spitting out new stuff, a lot of it extremely fun, but aside from that what do we have? A Fallout 4 "next-gen" update that's just made the game worse. And despite the fact that Fallout 4 is in the worst state it's been in for years, people would still rather play it than Starfield. That really says it all. 

Fraser Brown
Online Editor

Fraser is the UK online editor and has actually met The Internet in person. With over a decade of experience, he's been around the block a few times, serving as a freelancer, news editor and prolific reviewer. Strategy games have been a 30-year-long obsession, from tiny RTSs to sprawling political sims, and he never turns down the chance to rave about Total War or Crusader Kings. He's also been known to set up shop in the latest MMO and likes to wind down with an endlessly deep, systemic RPG. These days, when he's not editing, he can usually be found writing features that are 1,000 words too long or talking about his dog.